Council sues Federal Government for Oakey PFAS contamination
THE Toowoomba Regional Council has launched legal action against the Federal Government for damages relating to PFAS contamination.
In a claim filed in the Supreme Court in Brisbane last week, the council alleged the Commonwealth had been negligent and caused a public nuisance in its handling of the matter.
PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals, the most common of which are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
The chemicals were commonly found in firefighting foams used at aviation centres and military bases, including the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, for decades.
In the claim, the council said it could have to spend up to $12.5 million in water security measures for Oakey.
The council said, due to the contamination, it had been unable to reopen the Oakey Water Treatment Plant, which had supplied 65 per cent of water to the town's supply, since its closure for maintenance in 2012.
It was currently relying on a pipeline between Toowoomba's Mount Kynoch Water Treatment Plant and Oakey to supply the small town with water, though the pipeline was not designed to be the main source of water for the town.
"In order to provide security of water supply to the water network to supplement the supply of water from the Toowoomba-Oakey water pipeline, the council must construct a duplicate of the Toowoomba-Oakey water pipeline at an estimated cost of $12,500,000," the council said in the claim.
"Alternatively, purchase and install a water treatment system capable of removing PFCs from water drawn from council bores prior to its treatment at the Oakey Water Treatment Plant, at an estimated cost of $12,000,000.
"Alternatively, construct a reservoir to provide a minimum 48-hour emergency back-up water supply for the water network at an estimated cost of $3,000,000."
The council did not specify how much it wanted in damages but said the Federal Government "knew or ought reasonably to have known" since 1977 that the firefighting foam used at the Oakey base contained PFAS and was potentially harmful to humans and the environment.
The legal action comes just months after the council made similar claims to a Parliamentary Inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases.
The inquiry handed down its report earlier this week and recommended a coordinator general be appointed to take over the Federal Government's response to the contamination and landowners in contaminated areas be compensated for lost real estate value and other financial losses relating to the contamination.
Toowoomba Regional Council CEO Brian Pidgeon confirmed the council had filed the claim in the Supreme Court in relation to the PFAS groundwater contamination.
"As this matter is now before the courts it is not appropriate for council to make further comment," Mr Pidgeon said.
A spokesman for Assistant Defence Minister David Fawcett said they were aware of the legal action.
"The Department of Defence and the Government is aware the Toowoomba Regional Council has filed proceedings in the Supreme Court of Queensland," the spokesman said.
"The Matter will be handled in accordance with the Attorney General's Legal Services Directions 2017 Commonwealth.
"As proceedings have commenced and the matter is currently before the court, it's not appropriate to comment or provide further detail at this time."